Sunday, March 2, 2008

E-filing... Bah!

I spent quite a long time trying to complete and e-file my fairly simple federal tax return today. First I worked with fillable PDFs from the IRS, checking the instructions online, to be sure I understood my return. This generates a nice clean copy that I can send to my eldest daughter's college to accompany our annual financial aid application.

Then I tried two different free e-filing vendors, hoping to get my refund quickly, as I did last year. The first program, the one I used with no obvious problems last year, contained an incorrect multiplier (zero, in fact, instead of 20%) for the child care tax credit, reducing my sizable credit to nothing. I was glad I understood what I was really entitled to; I hope there aren't a lot of people out there being shortchanged on their daycare credits.

I then started over with a better-known provider name that had a lovely interface but insisted on depriving me, with no adequate explanation, of one of the child tax credits (not to be confused with the child care tax credit) that I am clearly entitled to. It attributed the single available credit to "son's first name/daughter's first name" -- JohnMary, shall we say. Huh?

I could try yet another service, but I'm sick of filling out endless screens. I think I'll just stick the damn thing in the mail tomorrow and be done with it.

Addendum, 6:25 AM the next day: I woke up early and decided to give it one more try with a third e-file provider. Success! No faulty multipliers, no mysteriously denied child tax credits. The name of this one: EFile Tax Returns. (To qualify for free filing, if you meet the requirements, I believe you need to get to the site via the IRS referral link.)

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